Dakota sat quietly eating and watching Corrine's body language as she sat with Kaleb. She clearly didn't want him to be in love with her. It was a shame; they would make a good couple, but Dakota firmly believed in love and knew that Corrine had none of that for Kaleb, at least not in a romantic sense. It was a relief for Corrine when Bartholomew announced that it was time to continue setting up for tonights show. She stood with Dakota, said goodbye to Kaleb who stared after her mournfully, and they headed inside the tent. Dakota left Corrine at the stands, where people were skillfully setting up the wooden seats. Instead she headed to the side tent, where the animals were kept.
The sounds of an argument came from the horse stall at the end.
"I think I know better than you! You haven't been here as long as I have!"
"But I'm the horse girl, not you. You're just the ringmaster's daughter, who thinks everyone should do what she says because of that!"
Dakota appeared round the side of the stall and the two girls stopped in their argument to stare at her, both with flushed cheeks.
"Another argument?" Dakota asked in that calm voice of hers. They nodded and began stating which of their faults it was. Of course, it was the others. Dakota held up her hand up. They stopped immediately. "Get Sky and Starlight and bring them in here. No more bickering."
As the girls went off they knew that they would never bicker in Dakota's hearing again if they could help it. Her calm tone hid the strict ideas she had about how people behaved around her horses. As the two girls took a horse each, Dakota slid her finger in to Apollo's mane and stroked his neck. She whispered an old Indian song to him, from the tribe her grandmother had been from, and for which she was named after. Her father had been half Dakota Indian, half Italian. Her mother had been Spanish. They'd had nothing but a small farm and a a small herd of cattle on their American farm, but it meant their child had grown up practically living with the mustangs that roamed the valley. This is where her love of horses had stemmed from.
Dakota led Apollo through the gap in the tent to his stall, and the two mares were led in after. As she put the filled water bucket in the stall, she saw her two helpers standing quietly watching her. Obviously they had got the hint.
"You two can go and help with the stands now. I'll finish up here."
Alianna groaned and Cassidy pulled a face, but they reluctantly left the stall and headed out.
Dakota reached for the brush and began on Apollo, singing that Dakota rhyme once again. Apollo flicked his ears in response, and she looked in to his deep eyes and felt that understanding they had shared since he was a foal. She wondered if his ancestors had carried her people, or if he himself had in another life been a Dakota Indian. Her grandmother's stories echoed in her ears, of wolves and the moon and nights under the stars with a small fire. She had been told of the dreams that gave people their names, and remembered when her father had jokingly given her a nickname of her own.
Apollo snickered, and Dakota smiled. This was where she belonged.